First Chinese Freight Train Crosses New Amur River Bridge Into Russia
The first Chinese cargo train to cross into Russia via a new bridge over the Amur (Heilongjiang) River arrived on Friday, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), who had partially funded the construction.
The 2,209-meter (1.4 mile) structure links Nizhneleninskoe in Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region in the Russian Far East, with Tongjiang in China’s northernmost Heilongjiang province. From Tongjiang it reaches to Harbin, the Provincial capital and access to China’s huge national rail network. From Nizhneleninskoe, the route connects with the trans-Siberian railway and can head either east to Vladivostok, providing Heilongjiang with Pacific Ocean port access, or west to Moscow.
The rail link opened in November 2022, and since then Russian trains have carried more than 1.6 million tons of cargo to China via the bridge. Checkpoints are now operating round-the-clock, allowing a significant increase in traffic. However, Friday’s train was the first from China to Russia.
Building the crucial piece of infrastructure was part of an agreement struck between Russia and China in 2008. The RDIF financed over 70% of the construction of the Russian part of the bridge, and the Russian state development corporation VEB.RF, the state-run company Russian Railways, and Chinese firms, also invested in the project. Totals costs, split between China and Russia amounted to US$355 million.
The launch of the bridge has created a new logistical route between Russia and China, reducing the rail distance from Russia to China by 700 kilometers (435 miles).
The bridge links China’s northeast railway network with Russia’s trans-Siberian Railway and is now playing an important role in further enhancing economic and trade exchanges between the two countries. Bilateral trade reached US$93.8 billion from January to May this year, a 40.7% increase compared to the first 5 months of 2022.
The route is expected to boost bilateral trade in mineral and energy resources between the two countries. While iron ore and oil are the main products transported across the Amur bridge, the connectivity has also strengthened China’s oil and gas imports from Russia. The bridge is designed to serve as an international goods transportation channel with an annual shipment volume of 25 million tonnes and 1.5 million passengers.
Industrial Parks and a Special Economic Zone are also being constructed close to the bridge on both the Russian and Chinese sides and will have direct access to the railway. These are expected to open next year.
For longer journeys, the opening of the bridge will also shorten the rail trip between Beijing and Moscow by 809 kilometres and save 10 hours from the current 5 days inter-city travelling time.
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